Long string of permutations could decide Boks’ pool B fate

02 October 2023 - 14:36 By Liam Del Carme in Marseille
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The Springboks' Jesse Kriel attempts to break a challenge in their Rugby World Cup pool B match against Tonga at Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Sunday night.
The Springboks' Jesse Kriel attempts to break a challenge in their Rugby World Cup pool B match against Tonga at Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Sunday night.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

The permutations for those hoping to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup are vast and varied — and despite their 49-18 win over Tonga, the Springboks' destiny is now in the hands of Scotland and Ireland.

It was widely anticipated that pool B would be tightly contested — and so it now proves, with all three teams still in the running to occupy the top two qualification spots.

Though the quarterfinal line-up will become slightly clearer after France's clash with Italy on Friday, it is only after Scotland's clash with Ireland that the Boks will know whether they make it through.

The scenarios are far from simple. The most stark for the Boks is also the most unlikely. Should Scotland beat Ireland by 21 points or more and both teams earn a bonus point, all three teams will be on 15 log points — but it will effectively squeeze the Boks out of the top two spots and knock them out of the tournament.

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber was asked a rather awkward question about Scotland and Ireland potentially predetermining the destiny of the pool.

“Could I believe in a scenario that they could decide they need this amount of points and get South Africa out of the way? That would probably [constitute] match-fixing, I would say.

“I hope not. Rugby is clean, we wear those T-shirts. Hopefully not, because that would be extremely disappointing, don't you think?”

Though highly unlikely, it's a scenario that is not entirely impossible.

The tournament rules state when two teams are tied on log points, the outcome of their match against each other will determine the higher-placed finisher.

In the event of a three-way tie on log points where the teams concerned won one and lost one against the other two contenders, points difference will be the separator. That is the potential scenario facing the top dogs in pool B should Scotland find until now elusive form against Ireland.

In the unlikely event of the teams still tied, then tries for and against will be used as the differentiator. If teams still cannot be separated, the side with the most number of points scored will be determined the higher-placed finisher.

After that, the team with the most tries will end as the higher-ranked team.

Should the teams still be tied, the one listed higher on World Rugby's rankings on October 2 will be declared the team finishing higher.

Scotland could knock Ireland out if they beat them, say 8-0, which will level them on log points with Ireland. Scotland would go through by virtue of their win over Ireland.

So if Ireland top the group on points difference, South Africa will go through in second as they beat Scotland. If South Africa top the group, Scotland would go through as they would have beaten Ireland. And if Scotland top the group on points difference, Ireland go through in second as they beat South Africa.

A Scotland defeat will see Ireland top the pool, with the Springboks finishing second.

Scotland have a poor recent record against Ireland. Ireland, who won 22-7 in Edinburgh in March, have won their last eight Tests against Scotland and have lost just once in their last 13 clashes against their neighbours across the Irish Sea.

A Scotland win in which they deny Ireland a bonus point at Stade de France would be a significant shock.


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